IRS Grants Extension to Elect Portability Under Certain Circumstances

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

The IRS has released Rev. Proc. 2014-18 to provide taxpayers the opportunity to obtain an extension of time to make a portability election under certain circumstances.

Portability allows a surviving spouse to receive the unused estate tax exemption of the predeceased spouse for gift and estate tax purposes. The estate tax exemption for 2014 is $5,340,000.

Under the new revenue procedure, an extension to file for this election will be granted under the following conditions:

(1) The taxpayer is the executor of the estate of a decedent who: Continue reading »

Estate Planning for Second Marriages

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

Prior to saying “I do,” those getting married for a second time have many more estate plan considerations to take into account than a first-time marriage.

Children from the previous marriage and spouses often have different interests and expectations about inheritance. If a large difference in age or health status exists between the new spouses, further complications can arise.

Without some type of waiver of spousal rights, a surviving spouse may have a right to elect against the estate plan that is put in place. In Missouri, this means the surviving spouse may receive one-third (1/3) of the estate, even if the will only provides for the children. Continue reading »

Estate Planning – Why It’s Important for You

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

Recently we’ve heard a number of stories about estate planning blunders that have resulted in huge tax costs and undesired distribution of assets. While a $50 million mistake certainly makes for good headlines, the fact is that quality estate planning is not just for the rich and famous.

It is common for people of all kinds to find themselves in similar situations when loved ones die, albeit with less fortunes involved – all because the deceased did not plan appropriately for death or disability.

Estate planning is all about your control over what happens to the assets you have accumulated during your life (including planning to minimize estate tax) and your control over your health care decisions.

Benefits of Estate Planning

1.    Avoiding probate of your assets. Probate is a court process by which the heirs of an estate are determined and the deceased person’s assets are distributed to those heirs. The benefits of avoiding probate include:

  • Your assets can be distributed to or held for your beneficiaries in a timelier manner.
  • Your estate avoids costly statutory attorneys’ fees.
  • Assets can be held for minor children without court involvement.
  • Your estate is distributed to your intended beneficiaries versus under Missouri law. Continue reading »

Costs of Raising a Child with Special Needs: The Story of Finn

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

Meet Finn and his family. Finn is a real boy with autism.

Finn’s father, Jeff Howe, shared his family’s story in “Paying for Finn: A special-needs child” for CNN’s Money Magazine. According to Howe, Finn is representative of 8% of all U.S. children because he is a child with special needs: he is autistic. His household is one of 25% of all U.S. households with a family member with special needs.

As the Howe family has learned, raising a child with special needs comes at great cost, both financial and emotional. Howe goes into great detail explaining his family’s journey with Finn. He does not hold back from sharing the specifics of his family’s finances and the costs associated with Finn’s care.

The financial burden for raising a child with special needs is staggering, to say the least, even for a family with considerable means. For families with less financial resources available to them, the financial burden is even more overwhelming. Continue reading »

Lessening the Stress of Travel for Travelers with Disabilities

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

Flying can be a frustrating experience for anyone, but for those with disabilities it is even more difficult. Knowing what rights a passenger with disabilities has is the first step to ensuring the next flight is as stress-free as possible.

Booking a Flight

When booking a flight, travelers with disabilities are generally not required to provide pre-flight notification with a few exceptions:

  1. Traveling by stretcher;
  2. Using an electronic wheelchair (or other device with special batteries); or
  3. Requiring connection to the airplane’s oxygen system during flight.

If none of these categories apply, the airline cannot deny travel for not being informed of a passenger with a disability’s travel plan. However, notifying the airline may ensure any desired accommodations are met with less stress on the day of travel.

Federal law has made provisions for people with disabilities who want to travel by airplane through the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986. The ACAA required the Department of Transportation to develop regulations to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of travelers with disabilities.
Note: While travelers with disabilities do have accommodations for air travel under the ACAA, they are not required to accept any or all accommodations.


Travel With an Attendant

Each airline determines whether an attendant is required, except in the following situations, which always require an attendant: Continue reading »

What You’ve Been Waiting for – Estate Planning for Your Google Account

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

Google is giving users an innovative tool for long-term planning of digital data and access to inactive Google accounts. Welcome to estate planning for your Google account.

As many families have experienced, the terms of service for most types of online accounts from most providers do not generally allow for the transfer of access to an account in the event of death. As more people begin to store important documents, photos, videos, and other items of sentimental value online, gaining access to the information has become an increasingly important issue in estate planning, according to Brett Watz with Mind of the Geek.

On Thursday April 11, 2013, Google addressed this issue head on by rolling out its Inactive Account Manager. This feature allows a Google user to designate a particular person (or persons) as manager of the Google account once it becomes inactive. This trusted friend or family member will receive access to the user’s emails, videos, photos, and documents in the inactive Google account for many of its services, such as Mail and YouTube. The user selects which data can be accessed. Note that it appears that this policy does not extend to information contained in paid Google services (see The Digital Reader’s post by Nate Hoffelder). Continue reading »

Knowing What the Patient Wants: Healthcare Directive, Living Will, and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

The issue of exhaustive yet routine and expensive medical treatment versus quality of life for patients at end-of-life has been a hot topic in the media recently. The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran a series of articles including “Woman’s 6-month decline highlights end-of-life care quandary.” The June addition for Time Magazine featured “The Long Goodbye.”

Both articles focus on family members deciding how much care is appropriate and what happens when medical care results in a quality of life that the recipient of the care may not have wanted.

What is apparent from these articles is that end of life issues are difficult to discuss with family members. As a result, individuals often lack the motivation to consult with counsel to make sure that their wishes regarding their medical care – particularly at end-of-life – are expressed in writing.

An individual may end up receiving long, drawn out treatment and a quality of life they did not desire.

Healthcare Directives, Living Wills, and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

In both of the examples, the families were aware of the wishes of the family member to some extent, and had even taken some measures to make appropriate decisions regarding their care. Continue reading »

Social Security Survivor Benefits for Noncitizens

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

Social Security survivor benefits can be an important component of your spouse’s financial security after your death. While the majority of U.S. citizens in the American workforce have survivor insurance protection for their spouses, noncitizens who are working in the United States are subject to different eligibility rules. Even if you are working in Social Security covered employment and your immigration status is fully legal, your spouse may not be able to receive survivor benefits after your death if these requirements are not met. Also, your surviving spouse may unknowingly forfeit survivor benefits upon leaving the United States. Read on to see if you are eligible and what your spouse will have to do to continue receiving benefits.

If You Are a Noncitizen…

The first question is whether you are currently covered by the Social Security program. In most cases, if you are working for a U.S. employer, even without authorization, the answer is yes. Among the few exceptions are people working under certain visa categories designated in § 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. These categories are designated by short alphanumeric codes, and they include the following:

  • H-1B temporary professional workers
  • H-2A agricultural workers
  • F-1 foreign students
  • J-1 cultural exchange participants

Second, if you received your Social Security Number on or after January 1st, 2004, you may need federal work authorization in order to be eligible for any kind of Social Security benefits, including survivor benefits. Does not make a difference when you receive your work authorization; even if you did not have it when you began working in the U.S., you may obtain it at a later date and still be eligible for benefits. Noncitizens admitted to the U.S. under a B visa or D visa are exempt from the work authorization requirement.

Continue reading »

iPad Apps for Autism

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

If you have someone with autism in your family, a tablet computer, such as an iPad or an Android tablet, may be a good investment.

Tablet computers offer numerous apps designed to help children with special needs, and apps specifically designed for people with autism can work wonders in helping them communicate.

St. Louis native Mark Bowers designed an app called Sōsh that helps young people develop social skills. According to the app’s website, Sōsh uses a methodology designed around the “five R’s” – Relate (connect with others), Relax (reduce stress), Regulate (manage behaviors), Reason (think it through) and Recognize (understand feelings). Continue reading »

Choosing a Guardian for Your Children

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

One of the most difficult decisions parents face when completing their estate plan is who should serve as guardian for their minor children. Here are a few common discussions regarding choosing a guardian: Continue reading »

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